For the first time since April 28th, the Rangers have won consecutive games on the road.
With the aid of Sammy Sosa's 5th inning grand slam, Texas took a lead and managed to hold on to it, narrowly defeating Cincinnati 7-6 on Friday night. Sosa's opposite field blast came on an 0-1 cutter from Matt Belisle that was on the outside corner, but belt high.
As you may have heard by now, it was Sosa's 599th career home run, meaning he only needs to hit one more home run before the Rangers can try to get him out of here. Even after tonight's 2 for 4 effort, Sosa's hitting just .252/.310/.468 on the year. I'm not exactly sure where this ranks league-wise, but suffice it to say Sosa is still a below average DH.
Vicente Padilla was lousy once again, giving up 12 hits and six runs in just five innings of work. He struck out five Reds, but also gave up a pair of home runs, including a two run tape measure shot from Adam Dunn after Sosa's grand slam that reduced the lead to just one run. Thankfully, the bullpen stepped up and delivered four innings of two-hit shutout baseball to preserve the lead. Padilla, somewhat undeservedly, picked up the win to improve to 3-8 on the year.
It's a crying shame that the Rangers haven't been as good this year as we had hoped, because Eric Gagne looks as filthy as any pitcher in the majors right now. His breaking pitches are absolutely sick, his fastball is running into the mid-90's, and it always seems like he has things completely under control, even when allowing a baserunner or two. Gagne now has a 0.53 ERA in 17 innings this year, with a WHIP of 0.88 and 18 strikeouts. Opposing batters have an OPS against Gagne of .446.
Let me put it this way: if I had my choice of any closer in Rangers history to put on the mound with a one run lead in the 9th inning of a critical game, I'd take Gagne over Francisco Cordero or John Wetteland right now, even when Cordero and Wetteland were in their prime with Texas. Then again, none of them can live up to the pristine standards set by former closer, Hideki Irabu.
Jon Heyman of SI.com has an interesting trade note on Gagne:
Turns out Eric Gagne has submitted a list of 12 teams that he can be traded to, and it is believed that just about all of them are teams that are out of the race, have no money or don't need him, so he'll have the control when Texas does decide to deal him. Three logical suitors -- the Tigers, Indians and Phillies -- are believed not to be on the list of teams to which Texas can deal him.
I'm pretty certain that Gagne would be willing to go to one of these contenders closer to the deadline if it meant a shot at pitching in the playoffs, but his no-trade list gives him a lot of leverage here, as well. Of course, I'd love to see Gagne back next season, but he's still an incredibly high risk/high reward pitcher at the end of the day, and I'm not sure the front office will be willing to give him the huge contract that he's probably going to command. Despite his brilliance on the mound, he's already been on the 15-day disabled list twice this year already.
Speaking of the disabled list, Ron Mahay was activated from the DL today after missing an entire month with a strained oblique muscle. He didn't pitch real great during his rehab assignment, so hopefully Ron Washington won't throw him into a close game right off the bat. Scott Feldman was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma to make room on the 25-man roster, after more or less sparing the place up.
Norm Hitzges interviewed Rangers owner Tom Hicks on The Ticket 1310 AM this morning, and the interview could basically be summarized in a few short lines:
- Jon Daniels' job is safe.
- Ron Washington's job is safe, although Hicks didn't sound quite as committal about this as he did about Daniels.
- Hicks has no interest in selling the Rangers.
- Hicks is convinced that Mark Teixeira and Scott Boras will test the free agent market, but as a nice consolation prize, Tex is hoping he'll sign with Texas. Kind of reminds me of those LendingTree commercials where the guy tells his former bank that they'll have to compete with other banks now to earn his business, but that he'll be "pulling for them" to win.
Perhaps the strangest moment of the interview was when Hicks suddenly became very protective of former GM John Hart, telling Norm that he wished the media would just leave Hart alone for good. Hicks also mentioned that he talks to Hart several times a month in an advisory role, and that he was present for the draft last week. It sounds a bit like Gene Michael's relationship as an advisor to George Steinbrenner, with the only difference being that whole "winning ballgames" thing.
By the way, SoccerAmerica.com published an amusing summary of a Times Online article earlier this week, concerning Tom Hicks and his English soccer club, Liverpool. Tell me if you see anything familiar here:
It may be that the British soccer press has little to talk about now that the domestic and international seasons have ended, but speculation has it that Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is already fed up with American owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks for not getting it done on the financial end. The Times says the Liverpool manager is displeased with the club's lack of progress in the summer transfer market, which still less than two weeks old. Liverpool still has yet to spend a dime, while English champion Manchester United has already shelled out some $110 million on new players.
And finally, Jamey Wright will get the start tomorrow for the Rangers, with Wes Littleton apparently being the leading candidate to be shipped back to AAA to make room on the 25-man roster. In addition, the Rangers will have to clear space on the 40-man roster, since Wright is currently on the 60-day disabled list. There's no clear cut consensus on who will be designated for assignment, but my guess would be Freddy Guzman, who's hitting .256/.344/.346 for the Redhawks this year.
You would think that with all the trouble the Rangers are going through to add a player to the roster, they'd at least add a good player or something.
Saturday, June 16th Game Preview
Texas Rangers (25-42) at Cincinnati Reds (26-42)
Jamey Wright (0-0, 16.88 ERA) vs. Aaron Harang (6-2, 3.93 ERA)
6:10 PM CST in Cincinnati, Ohio (Great American Ballpark)
TV: KDFI/My27 | Radio: KRLD 1080 AM